Beginning at sunset on July 31st and ending at sunset on August 2nd is the sabbat or festival of Lughnasadh, commonly known as Lammas, it is the first harvest festival in the pagan calendar, the other two being at the autumn equinox (Mabon) in September and Samhain (Halloween) at the end of October.
The first grain harvest is signalled by Lammas and much celebration is associated with it, it is told that the Sun god transfers his remaining light and warmth to the goddess Nass to ensure the continuing growth of crops; he will also protect the land and die defending it. Traditionally, soldiers and men who were working away from home would return just to help with the harvest and make sure all the grain was stored safe and dry before the autumn rains came so that the store would last until harvest the next year.
There is a lot of tradition related to Lughnasadh, certain things are eaten, made and done for the festivities. Bread is very significant to the sabbat, to make bread on Lammas eve and stir it with family and friends whilst making a wish for the harvest you desire should ensure a good crop, to give some of the bread to the birds and then eat the rest of the loaf at breakfast on Lammas day will seal the ritual. Other foods that are important are nuts and fruit especially from local sources, homemade pies, elderberry wine and ale. Herbs associated with Lughnasadh are incorporated into decorations and meals, some of these are cornstalks, oak leaves, wheat, heather and acacia flowers.
Decoration is an important and lovely way to personalise any festival and the most traditional decoration and symbol for Lammas are corn dollies or corn animals, in some rituals they are burnt as a sacrifice to the gods but most often they are placed on an altar or Lammas table display sometimes where the main meal will be eaten, or maybe on a mantelpiece. Together with candles in the colours of the land, golden yellows, oranges and greens, and dried grasses tied with ribbons, thanks are given to the gods and wishes for a continued spell of good weather for the harvest has more intensity.
The Lughnasadh sabbat is said to be a perfect time for handfasting ceremonies, the ‘wedding’ of a couple in nature is very symbolic in pagan culture and there ceremonies are beautiful occasions. The marriage vows may be taken for a year and a day, a lifetime or for all of eternity. It is a joyous event with merriment and laughter way into the night! At the warmest time of year, with family and friends of the couple home for the harvest, together with the long summer evenings, the perfect handfasting scene is made.
(This post is also on the blog at my site https://www.pagannature.wixsite.com/home )